Nigeria seeks bids for assets of ailing telecom company Nitel

LAGOS, June 9 Mon Jun 9, 2014 11:15am EDT

LAGOS, June 9 (Reuters) - Nigeria is seeking buyers for the assets of distressed state-owned former telecom monopoly Nitel, the state-appointed liquidator said on Monday.

Nigeria opted to wind up Nitel in March after almost a decade of struggling to sell it, due to the shambolic state of its fixed lines and high levels of debt, despite the country having one of the world's fastest-growing telecoms markets.

The liquidator, appointed by the government's National Council of Privatisation, said in an advert it wanted bidders with five years of telecom experience and a net worth of at least $200 million.

It said bids must be submitted by 1600 GMT on June 30, adding that the assets would be handed over to the preferred bidder in December.

The privatisation body has said it opted for a sale method it called "guided liquidation" because it wanted to protect the government from future claims and liabilities, as proceeds of the sale may be less than the value of the debt.

Nitel owes creditors - mostly suppliers - around 400 billion naira ($2.5 billion), with creditors taking a loss if the proceeds from the sale are not enough to repay all the debt.

In 2010 a consortium including Dubai's Minerva and China's second-biggest carrier China Unicom bid $2.5 billion for Nitel but could not raise the cash for the deal.

A separate consortium made a $959 million bid the same year but this failed when the bidder missed several deadlines.

Nitel's fixed-line subscribers have fallen to fewer than 100,000 from five times that number in 2001 and subscribers to its MTEL mobile unit have dropped to a few thousand from over 1 million.

Nigeria has over 100 million mobile subscribers. ($1 = 162.55 naira) (Editing by David Dolan and David Holmes)

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